I'm at the end of my rope!!

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-26-2012
I'm at the end of my rope!!
Fri, 10-26-2012 - 12:39pm

I'm so lost with this situation!

Let me give a little background...

I have been married for 6.5 years I have a 19 year old son from my previous marriage and husband and I have a daughter together who is 5.

On my IL's side, my 2 children are the only two children and I'm 99% sure there will not be any more from us or from SIL (she's 40, not married, no kids).

This issue has gone on for a long time. Initially when we got married, MIL seemed very excited about my son being part of the family and a grandson for her. But that quickly flew out the window once she found out I was pregnant with my daughter.

The first year my daughter was born and under a year old: Christmas, my MIL fills a stocking full of gifts for my daughter, gives her lots of other gifts, and barely anything for my son. On Valentines we received cards in the mail, one specifically for my daughter and then another one intended for the rest of us. On Easter, we went to the IL's house and as my son was holding my daughter my MIL gave my daughter a huge basket of goodies.... and nothing for my son.

At that point, I was upset (there were lots of other small things but I won't bore you will all the details) and MIL knew I was mad about the inequality in treatment. My husband had a talk with her but not sure what was said but I don't think she quite got the problem. So I ended up calling her and telling her that she treats them the same or we won't bother coming around.

Over the years, things sort of improved but only slightly but I still felt they were going downhill (if that makes sense) For example: MIL used to sign cards to my son as Grandma and Grandpa.... and then started signing their names. On his graduation card, she signed it Jan and Mark Smith. Yes, both first and last names.

So just a couple months ago, my son moved away to college and I can clearly see that my MIL has taken it as a sign to just go overboard on my daughter and my son isn't even a blip on her radar. I get that he is older and things don't always remain the same but I think it always just depends on the family. There is no clearcut way for how things are done.

A few days ago my MIL gave my daughter a basket full of goodies for Halloween. Then yesterday I received a card in the mail, the envelope was addressed to my daughter and family. But the card inside said for a special little "ghoul" on Halloween. MIL signed it Happy Halloween to Lilly and family.

Ok, so it's only a card right? but this isn't the first time stuff like this happened and it looks like it's reverting back. I sit here and think that my MIL loves to send cards. How hard would it have been to send my son a card who is away at college and struggling being away from home? Before anyone says it... Yes... I realize it's not Halloween yet but my MIL doesn't know my son's address. Only me and my son know it... and she has never bothered to ask for it. So I'm pretty sure she has no intention of specifically sending him one.

I realize this is tricky - he's older and people will say things change when children get older but I keep thinking, when my daughter is 19, I can guarantee they won't stop doing those little things for her!

My son has never said anything but that doesn't mean he doesn't have an opinion or hasn't felt slighted over it. He's probably just being nice and keeping it to himself if he does because he doesn't know what to say. But it makes me very mad and really hurts my feelings.

So now what? Since that first blow up about 4 years ago, I usually have kept things to myself. I didn't want anyone to think it was being nit-picky and attacking my MIL over every little thing. And maybe I don't remember every little slight, but I haven't forgotten how it's made me feel. And it's now built up again and I'm at a loss of how to handle the situation.

I would like to talk to my husband about how it's made me feel - which I realize is hard because it is his mother but this is a big issue for me! It always makes me worry it will be a sore spot and point of tension between us and I have tried to spare him my general dislike for my MIL but it's bubbling again at the surface and I need to confide in him over it.

I know I have been told in the past to just realize that she will never see them the same and never treat them the same and to let it go. Part of me wants to do that, but if I do.... I want to tell MIL that I see they don't care and because of it, I will have to keep my distance because I have no desire to spend time with them above and beyond what I really have to.  I don't want to deny my daughter any relationship with her grandparents but It just makes me mad she can skip along and treat my son like he doesn't matter and just get full access to my daughter and there are no consequences to her treating my son like he doesn't matter.

Part of me wants to call my FIL and express how upset and hurt I am and ask him if he has ever realized she does all that and why hasn't he said anything. But I don't know if that really is helpful. I just feel like if I have to say something AGAIN over it... that what's the point!? I can't force them to care about my son and if they treat him that way, I want them to realize there are going to be consequences because I will distance myself from them as much as possible.

I realize, these are my expecations but I have told my MIL how I felt a few years ago. Do I adjust my thoughts and feelings to her actions and get rid of my expecations? If I need to, I can try that but I feel like they should know.

I really need some help!! and sorry this is so darn long!

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Wed, 10-31-2012 - 11:38am

Well it's obvious from your in-laws' behavior that when you first got married, your son was really their only "grandchild" but as soon as they got a blood related GC, they made her more important & your DS was suddenly a 2nd class citizen.  I think some of their behavior is insensitive--if they are making an Easter basket, it doesn't take much to get 2 Easter baskets, does it?  But I also think that you can't make people feel the way you want them to feel & that holding onto your expectations is really damaging you more than your kids or anyone else.  I note that you said that your son has never said anything--could it be that he really doesn't care that much since he has his own 2 sets of GPs and he doesn't really consider them his GPs either, just some nice old people so it doesn't concern him that much?  So maybe you are worried about slights to him that he doesn't care about--after all, he's 19 now, he's not a child and I can't imagine that he would care about getting a Halloween card.

I just think you have to realize also that although it would be nice if your in-laws would treat their stepGC the same as their bio GC, you can't control how they act, you can only control how  you act and I think it would be a shame if you kept your DD from them as punishment.  I don't think that would accomplish anything.

I was in a 2nd marriage.  I have 2 kids and my 2nd DH had one and I can say that my mom really treated my DSD very nicely--she'd buy her Christmas & birthday presents and even after I got divorced from her father, she would send cards to my mother (and she didn't even send them to me).  One time my mom even gave all 3 kids $1000 each.  However, there were also limits--my mom gave my DD a car (my DD was one yr older than my DSD)--she was not going to give a car to my DSD.  My mom also gave me some money for DD's college that she was not gonig to give to my DSD.  My exH wouldn't expect this.  My DSD had her own grandmother who gave her presents--it's not like my DSD's GM would be giving presents to my kids.  As a stepmother myself, I can say that although I made sure to treat my DSD the same, I would buy her things, I would give her rides to her friends' houses, etc.--I did not feel the same toward her that I did toward my own kids.  And I think the idea of the Brady Bunch, all one big happy family is a myth that not all people live up to--I'm sure that there are lots of parents & GPs who love the steps just the same but not everybody does.  And I think age is a big thing too--if you get to know the kids as babies, maybe it makes a difference.  I met my DSD when she was 10 & she came to live w/ me 2 yrs later--I just didn't have that warm fuzzy feeling,, she was very different from me, I had no control over how she was raised, she hardly spoke to me,etc.  so considering the fact that your in-laws didn't meet your son until he was a teenager, I just don't think it's always realistic to think that they are going to ahve the same feelings for him.  As far as your DD goes, this is the 1st GC that they got to know as a baby and do all the baby things with, so I can kind of see where they are gonig to go overboard.

I do think you should speak to your DH about it, not as accusing his parents of being bad people, but just tell him how you feel and get his input on this and see waht he has to say.  maybe he could point out things to his parents where they are excluding your son. 

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-16-2002
Wed, 10-31-2012 - 3:55pm

Are you concerned that your son will be hurt by his step-MILs apparent disregard for him, or is it you who feels slighted?  In situations such as this, you don't want your children to see you trying to force someone into a relationship with them (that would be forced anyway).  If you give your children enough love and support, and the understanding that for whatever reason, not everyone will be fawning all over them, and that is okay.  Your children won't like everyone they are related to (by blood or marriage) either.  You would think that adults know how to behave, but a lot of them don't, and they can't be forced into changing.  Especially since your son is 19 now, and probably could care less about the old biddy, don't make such a big deal of it either. 

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

.  -Albert Einstein

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Thu, 11-01-2012 - 1:52pm

I had another thought about this today--my kids got stepgrandparents when my ex got married 10 yrs ago--they were 7 & 13 at that time, so now they are grown up.  The GD died a few years ago.  I have met the GM and she is a really nice lady.  My kids are also close w/ their SM & SS, but they do not have an independent relationship w/ their SGM.  At Christmas their family does one of those Yankee swap things, but for their BDs and other special occasions, I can't remember their SGM ever giving the kids a card or gift, but they don't seem to care about it.  Plus she has 6 kids of her own so she has plenty of bio GC to think about.

Avatar for jamblessedthree
iVillage Member
Registered: 10-23-2001
Sun, 11-11-2012 - 7:50am

There certainly can be and are favortisims across family/inlaw lines. I am sorry you are dealing with this but I wouldn't express your disappointment or feelings in front of your kids.. My inlaws are like this in so many ways, There's always pressing news they need to share about their own life or the other children and grandkids when we visit with little to no attention about our own.  We visited them last Easter and all the goodies she had were things MIL kept saying she knew daughter's soon-to-be step son liked with no regard for our own children, There was little exchange with our kids the time we were there!  And worth saying that my family is nothing like this, No, This isn't normal!  My kids are old enough to build the kind of relationship they want to with these people but when they were little I just went with the motions, I'd try and remain engaged and I'd tell the kids to hug them or say I love yous before we left, I don't encourage any of this anymore and I am lucky they are respectful........ Good luck to you and I'm sorry for spilling my own story that yours reminds me of. Don't get hung up over this as my bet is the inlaws probably don't even realize what they're doing. 



Avatar for elc11
Community Leader
Registered: 06-16-1998
Wed, 11-14-2012 - 3:56pm

Just wondering, how close are your dh and your son? Did your dh never notice the difference in how the kids are treated? I feel like it was your dh's job 5 years ago to tell his parents to please treat HIS stepson like they treated his daughter, and to repeat as necessary. But that didn't happen and by now its not going to happen. At this point I think its best to let it go. Your ds has probably accepted that its just how his sister's grandparents are. Its not kind or fair or considerate but its life, that's the way some people act and that's an important life lesson for him to learn. Hopefully he has a good relationship with another set of grandparents.


Community Leader
Registered: 10-22-2001
Wed, 12-19-2012 - 7:54pm


My ex-mil has ALWAYS done this to my dd and ds and both of them are her son's kids.

She treated her grand-daughter's differently...:(...Always favoured the girls over the boys.

I have never liked it and told her.

When they were younger it came down to you treat them the same or alike or don't bother with either of them.

She really has nothing to to do with either of her grand-sons mine or my ex-sil's.

My dd has limited contact and my ds none.

My dd was in the hospital last year and she never went to see my dd or call.

Ironically she tried to lie and say she didn't know.

On the way to the second hospital I called her from my Cell Phone.

It has definitely impacted her relationship and my ex's with my dd.

It was my ex-husband who asked me if I would call his Mom or he would never hear the END of it.

I had to get her number from him...

Neither of them went to see her in the hospital.

Can you imagine? It hurt my dd terribly.

I think it's a horrible way to treat your son...When you married he was part of a pkg. deal...kwim?

I believe your husband needed to stand up to them.

I stood up to my ex-mil, and politely told her they are both your grand-kids...I feel your son was just as much part of your family.

My ds felt like an "Out-sider" my ex-husband and my ex-mil both let the kids down.

My beloved Mom died when my kids were very young...dd was four and ds was one...So they didn't have her...:(...

She, my ex-mil had an opportunity to be a grand-ma and wasn't, her LOSS!

Her mom the kids great-grandma was Wonderful in spite of her grand-son and I separating/divorcing she remained a very big part of our family...

I know she was very disappointed in her grand-son my ex and told him so and that his grand-pa would not have been very happy either.

They are Great!...My kids...:)...


Same as your son, they (in-laws) had an oportunity to be grand-parents, they chose not to!

Their LOSS, he sounds like a fantastic young man in spite of this, just like mine are fantastic young adults.